Why it is wise to comply when replacing windows

It pays property owners who are considering replacing windows, to be aware of the current England and Wales Building Regulations, as UK home owners can get their fingers badly burnt by either a) not bothering to find out what they must do to comply, or b) knowing the regulations. To go ahead and order one or more windows in a property without first establishing the home owners legal obligations are is not really very sensible, plus it is worth knowing what the installer is also supposed to legally do comply to the rules when they replace a window in a dwelling.

The Building Regulations in relation to safety and fire egress are there for everyone’s safety, including all those who visit or live in a household. An example of non-compliance would be for a property owner to allow a replacement bedroom window to be fitted without a sufficient enough opening to allow a person out, and/or a fireman with an air bottle in, as it is possible such a non-compliant window in fire could be the cause that someone getting trapped on the inside and dies from smoke inhalation or incineration by fire.

Consequently to comply with the England and Wales Building Regulations every double glazed replacement window in a habitable should have “an unobstructed openable area that is at least 0.33m2 and at least 450mm high and 450mm high”, plus “the bottom of the openable area should be not more than 1100mm above the floor.” The latter is to ensure that whoever is in the habitable room during a fire can climb out.

As the Building Regulations make clear “with increasing height more complex provisions are needed because emergency egress through upper windows becomes increasingly hazardous. It is then necessary to protect the internal stairway. If there are floors more than 7.5m above ground level, the risk the stairway will become impassable before occupants of the upper parts of the dwelling house is appreciable, and an alternative route from those parts should be provided.” The important thing when replacing any window (or indeed adding a new one into a new builders opening) is to apply common sense, so that in the event of a fire, there is means of escape from any room, on whatever floor.

For example, in instances where there is say a top hung, opening out, fanlight window above a large fixed pane in an existing bedroom, any replacement window will need to be of a more fire escape friendly design in order to comply with the Building Regulations, and thereby provide a means of getting out of that room in a fire. In this example, either the bottom section needs to be made into one large opening, or the window will need to be completely redesigned. There is sadly, far too often a temptation by some property owner to save money by replacing an unsafe window, with an equally unsafe window (as the less the number of openings, the cheaper a window costs to buy) should be out-weighed by the risk of putting lives in danger by not providing the means of escape the law requires.

Not only could such selfishness and thoughtlessness lead to injury and death, but also to the property owner being sued by remaining relatives, and/or their local authority, if they are able to prove that lives were lost by being put at risk through the owners non-compliance with the Building Regulations.

So when considering replacing a window or windows and would like a no obligation assessment of whether or not the replacement window design desired should comply with the Building Regulations or not, why not call the experts at a well established independent double glazing manufacturers and installers? Any company that has been in business for more than three decades should have the knowledge to assist you.


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